One afternoon with a shovel
Michael Yon reports from Iraq. "As we passed through the village, Captain Combs pointed out the nice houses, saying the people had been simple farmers with comfortable homes and lives. Until al Qaeda came." What follows is a photo essay of what happens, actually happens, when the "militants" gain power over a village and proceed to turn it into the holy 8th century, the Year Zero or whatever those with the most recent scheme to turn the world into a paradise on earth want to call it.
Later in the day, some of the soldiers from the unit I share a tent with, the C-52, told me that one of their Kit Carson scouts (comprised of some of our previous enemies who have turned on al Qaeda) had pointed out an al Qaeda who had cut off the heads of children. Soldiers from C-52 say that the Kit Carson scout freaked out and tried to hide when he spotted the man he identified as an al Qaeda operative. Just how (or if) the scout really knew the man had beheaded children was unknown to the soldiers of C-52, but they took the suspected Al Qaeda to the police, who knew the man. C-52 soldiers told me the Iraqi police were inflamed, and that one policeman in particular was crazed with intent to kill the man who they said had the blood of Iraqi children on his hands. According to the story told to me on 30 June, it took almost 45 minutes for the C-52 soldiers to calm down the policeman who had drawn his pistol to execute the al Qaeda man. That same policeman nearly lost his mind when an American soldier then gave the al Qaeda man a drink of cold water.
"Crazed with intent." Now there's a nice phrase, but one wonders. Who was crazy, the cop who wanted to shoot the al-Qaeda child beheading specialist; was it the "militant" himself? Was it the C-52 troopers who instinctively offered the prisoner the automatic courtesies of civilization or the whole damn world?
One thing's for sure. Digital cameras take better pictures of massacre victims being exhumed from shallow graves than those old black and white Speed Graphics ever did. Color conveys more information. But whether the information ever gets conveyed depends on how willing one is to admit that those pictures could one day be of your family or of you. When it finally comes home the game is being played, not for media points, but for keeps.